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In-Flight Entertainment 6 June 13, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Reviews, Up and Away.
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An extended edition of the movies I caught in the air (but not in theaters!), owing to flights from New York to San Francisco and thereafter San Francisco to Manila.

Alvin and the Chipmunks. Surprisingly, not too bad. From the get-go one would expect this to be a train wreck in the making, but it’s actually quite entertaining. Of course, one shouldn’t expect much from the film. Having said that, it’s a fairly linear and predictable plot that nonetheless delivers a serviceable story for its eponymous characters.

August Rush. I concede that this isn’t a film for everyone, but I absolutely loved it. The story itself is rather thin, particularly towards the end, but to focus on the plot details alone is to miss the point completely. The allure of the film lies in the near seamless way that the music is integrated into the storytelling. Indeed, I would say that the way this comes together early in the film is a powerful hook, whereafter audiences are compelled to see the film through to the end. Stellar performances from the cast — Freddie Highmore, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Robin Williams and the ever beautiful Kerri Russel — also make for a compelling reason to check this one out.

The Bucket List. This is a Rob Reiner film at its best. The star power alone is a huge draw for this one, and indeed half the fun lies in waiting to see whether Morgan Freeman will be able to upstage Jack Nicholson, and vice versa. While the story arguably goes on a little longer than it should, this is one film that is very satisfying up to the very end.

Charlie Wilson’s War. While I am a sucker for Aaron Sorkin’s work, this one felt a little disjointed. It does take a while for the story to develop, after which it becomes quite engrossing. Yet I can’t help but feel that the stars were miscast and underutilized. Julia Roberts’ performance, for instance, fell flat with me, and overall I felt that the title role would have better suited Tom Hanks in his younger days. On the other hand, this was yet another film where Amy Adams shines (despite the small role she played). But the one who really stole the show was Philip Seymour Hoffman. His portrayal of a CIA spook was just spot on.

Cloverfield. An utter waste of time, in my opinion. Sure, the “Blair Witch meets Alien Invasion” concept is fairly interesting, but despite the amazing CGI work the film fails completely in the “suspend your disbelief” category, even for a sci-fi flick. Between characters that act thoroughly juvenile and a camera whose battery never runs out, this was one thoroughly exasperating viewing experience I’d rather forget.

Dan in Real Life. A charmer, to be sure. It’s very engaging and the chemistry between actors Steve Carrel, Dane Cooke and Juliette Binoche is a lot of fun to watch. For some reason, I feel this is a film along the same vein as Little Miss Sunshine and Sideways, albeit one that would appeal to a wider audience (given that between the three, it’s the one I’ve enjoyed the most). Also, as a vehicle for Steve Carrel it certainly showcases the extent of his acting ability, which is simply amazing.

I Am Legend. Not too bad, but not exactly great either. That Will Smith puts a lot into the title role almost makes up for the simple (and borderline weak) story that surrounds the film. For my part, however, what made the film hard to enjoy in retrospect was how about half was almost entirely about the relationship between a man and his dog. Granted, that’s not the most flattering way to describe the movie, but anyone who’s seen it will know what I mean.

Jumper. In spite of myself, I enjoyed this one. It’s a fairly straightforward sci-fi/action-adventure romp, and one that pushes all the right buttons for instant gratification (entertainment-wise). If anything, it’s made me a believer again in Hayden Christensen after those terrible Star Wars prequels. I do wish, though, that Diane Lane had a bigger role to play. Just because.

Rambo. I caught the most recent installment of Rocky on a flight, so I jumped at the opportunity to catch this Sylvester Stallone franchise. Granted, I’m more familiar with the backstory of Rocky (and much prefer it) compared to Rambo, but this was by no means a disappointment. If anything, I was taken aback by the level of violence in the film, which I suppose was more realistic given the special effect available to today.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Sure, I get it. It parodies biopics such as Walk the Line without trying to be out and out ridiculous (a la The Naked Gun for cop shows and Scary Movie for horror-thrillers). And yes, I think it’s about damn time that someone stuck their neck out to make such a film: as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz demonstrate, when done well such movies can truly shine. This one was forgettable, I’d even go so far as to say it was downright boring. Of course, I knew that even before taking the plunge, but I didn’t realize it would be this bad. I am compelled to wonder where John C. Reilly’s career is headed. The guy’s got talent, but after Talladega Nights and this one, I fear his reputation may never recover.

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